Image of a woman holding skin care products

A dermatologist explains how many skincare products are too many.

Last Updated: December 6, 2021

Are you using too many skincare products? Dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon explains product overload and how to simplify your beauty routine for less irritation.

It’s a sobering experience when you open your medicine cabinet and realize that your simple beauty routine has evolved to such monstrous proportions that it rivals the skincare section at your local drugstore.

And since new products are constantly being marketed as holy grails of youth and renewal, it’s a little too easy to acquire even more serums, masks, toners, and cleansers than we know what to do with.

Welcome to skincare overload, where congested skin, persistent dry patches, and sudden acne breakouts on your face are all signs you might be using too many products.

To sort it all out, we sat down with Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, to learn more about product overload and how to achieve better balance and less irritation on your gorgeous mug.

About the author: Dr. Anna H. Chacon

Dr. Anna H. Chacon is a double Ivy League-educated board-certified dermatologist. Following medical school at Brown University, Dr. Chacon completed a fellowship in dermatologic & laser surgery at the University of Miami, in which she authored many articles, book chapters, and managed several clinical research studies. She then completed a one-year surgical internship at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

She completed her dermatology residency at LAC+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles. She is currently a board-certified dermatologist in South Florida. She speaks multiple languages including English, Spanish, and French; and aspires to treat her patients like family. She has an interest in rural health and providing healthcare to underserved areas. She serves as the first and only dermatologist that provides medical care to the Native Americans of the arctic slope of Alaska.

She currently is the most licensed female dermatologist and is licensed in 46 states to practice medicine across state lines. She loves dermatology and also enjoys writing in publications, magazines, online websites, research studies, and scientific articles.

Are people using too many skincare products?

Illustration of a passion flower

The short answer is, yes. “Sometimes I see friends’ bathrooms or I get questions from my patients, and they are definitely using too many products,” says Dr. Chacon.

“Most people’s skin doesn’t need six products in the morning and six in the evening. Your skin is absorbent, but it has its limits. Using fewer products ensures better absorption and effectiveness of the ingredients you’re putting on your skin.”

Is it bad to use too many skincare products?

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Dr. Chacon says she often has patients come in with tons of skincare products they use for various concerns, yet all they’ve got to show for it is irritated skin.

“When you’re starting to get dry skin patches, acne breakouts, flaking, dry skin patches on the face, or other irritation, there’s a good chance you’re using too many products,” she says.

Too much skin care can be bad news for any skin type. Over-exfoliating—pairing acid exfoliators or using them too often—can cause red, dry patches on the face, leading people to counteract the dryness with thick creams that cause congestion or acne breakouts.

Likewise, wearing a hydrating toner, a serum, and a moisturizer can lead to oily, clogged skin from too many hydrating products.

“Moderation and not excess is key for adequate skincare,” says Dr. Chacon.

How do I simplify my skincare routine?

To create a minimalist beauty routine, Dr. Chacon has a few recommendations. “Consider setting up a skincare budget to limit how much you spend, and make sure you’re not buying a new product that’s similar to something you already have,” she suggests.

Her biggest tip for scaling back? “Instead of using a different product for each step of your routine, try looking for one product that targets multiple concerns.”

Below are her tips for skincare products necessary for each skin type. Have a look and start paring down your skincare fridge.

Best products for normal skin

Unless you’ve got specific skin issues you’re focusing on — like hyperpigmentation or uneven texture — stick to the bare bones.

“Normal skin likes the basics — a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen,” says Dr. Chacon. “People with normal skin should narrow down topicals such as toners, chemical exfoliants, masks, and serums to a select few to avoid overwhelming their skin.”

Weleda’s One-Step Cleanser & Toner paired with Superbloom’s Dew Infusion Moisturizing Cream and a matte-finish sunscreen like Bare Republic’s Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion are a solid foundation for normal skin.

Best products for oily skin

For oily skin that’s easily overwhelmed and prone to congestion, Dr. Chacon suggests decreasing the number of skincare products used altogether.

“Implement a sunscreen with a moisturizer as an all-in-one, and skip the serums.”

Unsun’s Tinted Face Sunscreen has SPF 30 with ultra-moisturizing shea butter and aloe, plus it comes in two shades — light/medium and medium/dark — so you can color-correct, sun-protect, and moisturize with one product.

Shop for products to help with dry skin from Grove.

Best products for dry skin

Instead of using drying alcohol-based products or conventional facial cleansers on your skin, choose something with fewer ingredients, especially when dealing with dry patches on the face that won’t go away.

“Alcohol-based products like facial wipes and some toners are potential irritants for dry skin,” Dr. Chacon says.

A product like micellar water removes makeup, gently cleanses the skin, and hydrates all in one fell swoop. Rooted Beauty’s Sensitive Skin Micellar Water is made with soothing chamomile and nourishing aloe vera that help calm dry, irritated skin.

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Skip the sunscreen? Never!

Illustration of a sunscreen.

The one product Dr. Chacon says is non-negotiable is sunscreen. “Using a good sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 is imperative to keep skin protected from harmful UV rays.”

For folks who experience dry eyes and burning from their sunscreen, Dr. Chacon says, “A lot of people are sensitive to avobenzone, a common ingredient in chemical sunscreens.” She recommends looking for mineral sunscreens that use active ingredients like zinc oxide and are fragrance-free.

Juice Beauty’s SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen is a great choice — it uses a 20% concentration of zinc oxide to absorb the sun’s rays, plus it’s got hydrating aloe vera and antioxidant-rich vitamin C to fight off free radicals and keep skin happy.

Should I switch up my skincare routine seasonally?

“It’s important to add or change items in your routine as the seasons change,” Dr. Chacon says.

“I tend to use lighter products during summer and heavier, more hydrating products that contain hyaluronic acid or ceramides in the wintertime.”

But you don’t need to do a complete overhaul, she says — your cleanser and sunscreen are going to be fine all year round.

However, the rich moisturizer you use during the cold, dry months of winter might be too heavy for the heat and humidity of summer, and summer’s lightweight moisturizers may not perform as well against the cold, dry air.

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